Duckwrth and his partner made tacos last night. They were really good. We pause our conversation on his new album, SuperGood, out Friday, August 21 via Republic, to emphasize how important it is to be with family, to indulge in the simpler moments. My girlfriend and I made nachos last night. This cosmic alignment makes Duckwrth happy; he’s all smiles and laughs.
When not making tacos, Duckwrth likes to make people “trip out.” He told DJBooth as much in 2017 and has been on this mission since 2012’s DUCKTAPE. The LA-native rapper born Jared Lee makes positive jams. Even at his most grand, as on 2019’s The Falling Man, Duckwrth makes shimmy-inducing, heart-pounding, soul-smiling music. His style is distinct, high fashion without the barriers to entry. Everything Duckwrth touches takes flight; his natural cool settles into every room he enters. Pressing play on SuperGood, we’re immediately reminded Duckwrth is too slick, too fly for this world.
SuperGood feels like a cotton candy sky and comes with the following message: “This album has been years in the making. I had the title and the feel of it damn near since I started making music. But I did not feel I was in the right place mentally or creatively to make it what it deserved to be. So personal growth, creative growth, community growth, and three solo projects later, I did it. We did it. Cause I didn’t do this alone. I was surrounded by some amazing talent that the world should know. So it feels like fun. It feels like family.”
The album is a celebration of the Black music that made Duckwrth, is a celebration of life during an era where celebration feels damn near taboo. There’s a relentless joy to SuperGood, baked into tracks like “Too Bad,” which undulates forward while “Money Dance” jitters in all the right ways. SuperGood is poised to be the album of an unforgettable—for all the worst reasons—summer. It is the light we need. And it’s good, guys. It’s really, really good. “This your new jam,” Duckwrth sings. It’s true.
My full conversation with Duckwrth, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: I want to go back to The Falling Man to start. Of the project, you said, “We fuck up. But there’s also a positive note to it. We fall, but we get back up.” When’s the last time you fucked up and got back to it?
Duckwrth: Shit, this year! I got pretty sick in February. I recorded the whole album in January—except for two songs. The way I thought the year was going to look like, it totally didn’t. I got pretty sick, and spent three months getting myself back on-point, not just health-wise, but mentally and spiritually. I decided to put the album to the side for three months until my management was hitting me [nonstop]. “Y’all gotta stop!” I gotta get my health together, my mental together, and then we’ve got COVID and what’s happening with police brutality. I fell this year, for sure.
The new album is called SuperGood. What’s the last super good thing you experienced?
Turning in this album! After all the shit that went down, to be able to turn in a full project and still be living in 2020… Or, um, shit, I can be more specific! Me and my partner made tacos last night. They were really good! And they were vegan! That was a super good moment.
My girlfriend and I made nachos last night.
Come on! You know what I’m saying? That’s a super good moment. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, it’s just appreciating the simpler things, they can be super good as well.
How important is it to have feel-good music during these difficult times?
It’s super important because people need to be reminded of what joy looks like, what happiness looks like. What it feels like to dance again and celebrate that we’re still here. I didn’t wanna make a record that was super politically driven. You can check out a couple different projects more in that effort. I wanted to go to spirit and give people a safe space to find joy again.
On the microsite that came with the album, you said, “This album has been years in the making. I had the title and the feel of it damn near since I started making music.” After working on something for so long, how did you know you were done?
The last project was called The Falling Man, and the character fell to their demise due to the fact they couldn’t open up and love. That was me in that sense, so finding a place to love again and the colors that come rushing back into your life… It was me finding that space again. It wasn’t in the sense of finding a partner; it was finding color in life. I had a moment where I wasn’t depressed, but I wasn’t the happiest. I couldn’t find that upbeat. Coming out of last year and going into this year, I found it again! “Alright, cool, it’s time to do it… It’s time to make this album!”
This album inspires finding happiness. You’re giving people what they’re looking for.
I’m just happy it can even be taken in that way because we all try our different ways. A lot more people have been making an effort to [find happiness]. If this album can get you to do that, can get you a moment where you can dance... Even if it’s one motherfucking song, yo! If it can take you back to another time where people were happy, I feel like I’ve done my job.
Back in 2017, you told us, “With music, style, and perception, I like to make people trip out.” How did you apply that to SuperGood?
Ha! That’s truth, I was pretty straightforward in the musical composition of it. These are song-songs. The trippy moments are the transitions that happen in between the songs. The way we weave from one song to the other, where it’s more glitchy or ambient guitar in the background… That was the trippier aspect of the album. In that sense, I am trying to make people “trip out,” but I just wanted to make songs. For the next one, I might go even trippier. This one, I wanted to give people shit they could sit with. Being in a crowd, knowing “This your favorite jam” type shit.
From 2012’s DUCKTAPE to now, how have you been working on maturing as a creative?
My expectations of myself as a rapper, producer, and songwriter [have] changed. Vocally, on this album, I kinda played the background a bit by letting other people have just as much vocal time as me. Being able to showcase my friends... I wanted to focus on the feeling of the whole song and not the ego side of it. “What’s Duckwrth sounding like? Am I spitting hard?” That was me on DUCKTAPE. This one, it’s more so, “What does it make you feel like?” And that involves bringing other people in.
This is your sharpest project thus far, and it might also be your most fun. How important was fun to the making of this album? Especially working with all your friends.
Different artists and producers can bring different elements and places I didn’t even think to go. There’s this one song called “Say What U Mean,” and the chorus is just two girls singing one word in a bunch of melodies. That’s what my friends can do sometimes. I’m always gonna think of things as a rapper, but it’s not about the words you use, it’s more so about the melody and the sound that comes out of your mouth. On “Find A Way,” the spinal cord of the song is that [hums], I wouldn’t think in that sense. Then my homie, Radiio Ahlee, he was chanting in the studio, and we recorded it! Friends can bring elements that you can’t get yourself. That’s how you get the best product sometimes.
Have you become more or less of a perfectionist with this album, and how does that impact your process?
Whew! The reason this album is coming out in August is that I’m such a perfectionist. I’ve been done with this album since February. Months later, it’s coming out, because I’m so particular on sound. Working with my engineer, he’ll tell you how many times I go back and… “Can you scale back this reverb? Can you turn that up? Can you turn that down? That’s too much, turn that back up! Can you make this sound like you in the car? Can you make this sound like orange?” And he’s like, “What the fuck!?” When it comes to feeling, everything has to be on-point. I trust my ear and my heart. It got me this far, so I am particular as shit.
If you could imagine the ideal SuperGood listener, what would they be doing when the album drops and they’re having their first spin?
Sitting down with the time to have an open ear, or in the shower. Or driving somewhere. Hopefully, it’s like six, and it’s magic hour, and the sky’s a little bit orange, a little bit pink. Maybe smoking some weed, maybe with a boo thang or something like that. Riding their bike. Anything that can involve having the time. Or even a person who is busy. They can be working and just how you said the album has a gravitational pull… It starts pulling them more and more away from what they’re doing into this SuperGood world.